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LUXURIA : Unanswerable Lust (1988)

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After Magazine's collapse in 1981, & following his brief solo sojourn with the Jerky Versions Of The Dream LP in 1983, Howard Devoto dumped Virgin Records for Beggar's Banquet, hooked up with multi-instrumentalist Noko (previously bassist in The Cure & Pete Shelley's band) & formed the oft-maligned, & now virtually forgotten Luxuria (Adultery originally, a much better name if you ask me).

I'm as guilty as anybody of ignoring them at the time. In 1988 I was far more interested in the torrent of rough & ready underground rock concurrently spewing out of North America &, aside from perusing a couple of non-committal articles in Melody Maker, Luxuria barely impacted on me. Though I'm now ashamed to admit it, Howard already seemed like a spent, middle aged figure to me back then. Predictably, as I hurtle towards middle age myself, Luxuria's music has belatedly begun to aquire a faded, decadent allure. Unanswerable Lust's melodies - cloaked in an opulent fog of gaudy 80s production ("conform to deform", etc) & sounding not unlike Prefab Sprout or Breakfast Club-era Simple Minds in places - are often difficult to pin down. Engulfing themselves in so much ostentatious embellishment seems rather self-defeating in retrospect, dating their album indelibly, & I can't help wondering what these songs might've sounded like if they'd been recorded in more sober, stripped back circumstances. Tellingly, the least production heavy song here, the relatively unfussy "Lady 21", is also one of the most memorable. Howard's lyric's, however, never fail to impress, veering between sly, self-mocking sarcasm & riotous, melodramatic pretension. Unlike most rock writers, his words generally work as well on the page as in performance.

I've added a couple of related tracks: the spirited cover of Dylan's "She's Your Lover Now" from their debut Redneck 12" (with most of Shriekback moonlighting as their backing band), & a remix of the eponymous "Luxuria" (from the Public Highway EP single). I'm still missing the other Public Highway b-side, "Sickly Thug & I", drop me a line if you can help... (N.B. Some of you may also find this of interest.) Bafflingly, whereas Luxuria's second LP, 1990's less absorbing Beastbox, is still easily obtainable via Amazon & iTunes, Unanswerable Lust has been deleted for several years.

Luxuria split, largely unlamented, in 1990. Howard drifted off into a career as a photo archivist & avoided the music industry for the next decade, only re-emerging in 2001 with Buzzkunst, a one-off collaboration with fellow ex-Buzzcock, Pete Shelley. Noko, meanwhile, formed the surprisingly successful Apollo 440 with a couple of old school friends, & currently plays in Raw Chimp. Both Howard & Noko are, of course, part of the reconvened Magazine, Noko replacing the late, great John McGeoch.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous21.4.11

    I actually bought this when it came out and did not think much of it then.

    But alas I am on an emotional time warp at the moment and downloaded this the other week (must be our age) in search of albums long since sold and with an endeavor to capture my youth.

    It works, just play old tracks from 77 to 1989 and you will never grow old.

    Just going to die my hair, not as a statement but because I have to

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  2. Hey Anon, I only heard Unanswerable Lust comparatively recently - if I'd listened to it back in 1988 I'm positive I'd have hated it (I was wrapped up in noisy guitar music back then, to the exception of EVERYTHING else!). My loss, etc.

    The beautiful thing about the internet is that it's given me the opportunity to catch up on so many records that I had neither the cash or inclination to investigate back in the 80s/90s... There's SO MUCH breathtaking stuff out there that I missed, either because I was skint or because it was so bloody obscure - does that make me emotionally timewarped too? I 'spose so...

    I haven't succumbed to the hair dye yet but, as I ungracefully haul myself into my 40s, it's probably only a matter of time!

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  3. Oh my! What a surprise! (Bit late in the day for this meassge, mind) There I was feeling smug when Luxuria was mentioned here as I “had the LP etc.” only to find that my copy of “Beastbox” was in fact NOT the debut LP of Mr Devoto’s band at all but their less than worthy 2nd LP! I therefore will be investigating the songs here, however, the single “Dirty Beating Heart”, which they released around 1989 and drew them to my attention, is worth considering if you don’t have it.

    As for Anon’s recipe for bringing back a smile to your ageing face by listening to records from 1977 to 1989, I must wholeheartedly agree. Although I became a devoted Dance music fanatic during the DIY years of Acid house music in the late 80’s all the way through to the 00’s I still find my youthful punky-wunky years of 76 onwards as the most fruitful period for raising a gleeful grin. Having continued my 70’s mix-tapes into CDs, DVDs, mp3 podcasts and soon maybe, nostalgic DJ mixes over the last 30 odd years, being able to find those lost treasures that you missed out on way back then for whatever reason, as become a new holy mission without end.

    So thank you, Mr Novemberer (and the other bloggers) for the time you give up in providing us with songs we may never have heard before, along with the history behind them. They help give our well-weathered lugholes an unexpected musical treat which then brings a smile to our wizened old fizzogs.

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  4. I pursued a very similar trajectory, Splash... I largely renounced "guitar music" for house, techno & IDM in the '00s, & had a great time smashing my long suffering brains to bits, but I've gradually worked my way back to where I left off...

    I was quite fortunate I think - my interest in "dance" music kicked in just as it was becoming a really interesting, forward-looking genre (Jockey Slut was my bible). I don't hear those kind of advances in contemporary electronic music any more, which is why I've come full circle & started rediscovering Magazine, etc again, I suppose?

    There's definitely SOMETHING about British music in the 70s & 80s that really clicks with me. I'm more conversant with it now than I ever was, & so much great, forgotten music from that period is still being uncovered, the mind boggles, frankly. It was such a fertile period for progressive music (of all persuasions) - & you only have to pop into Waterstones, & note the piles of books relating to that period, to realise how prevalent interest in it has become.

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